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2013.08.20 06:38 trorer The most interesting cars for sale on the web

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2012.09.24 04:08 dadof2 Surveying

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2023.03.24 12:51 pluckyfemme2 Please, pick up your stuff

Hi. I’m a Target employee charged with fulfilling your online order for Pick-up or Drive-up asking that you kindly pick it up. You have 24h to do so if cold grocery and 72h for everything else.
There’s no more hold space in our massive, remodeled fulfillment hold area.
There are no consequences (to you) if you don’t pick up your stuff, which, hey, that’s ignorance on Target’s part. For every 20 items easily found in the store, at a rough cost of $0.25/item, there’s likely one item with a product margin of $0.30 that leadership invested $3 of labor into failing to find. I know, we’re stupid that way.
Payroll hours are cut so deeply that guest services cannot attend to Return-To-Stock. (But, we’ll still spend precious labor $ trying to find an item elsewhere in the store that will not be found. )
Results in a disappointed customer who is unable to find that e.g. FUNKO toy because it’s sitting abandoned in a fulfillment hold location. If you care…
In-store guest is adamant that we have an item in stock we cannot find. If it wasn’t damaged, stolen, mis-picked at the DC, or sitting in un-pushed freight, it’s hidden in an abandoned online order. Who knows. Still, the employee and guest are frustrated. If you care…
This human likely climbed 15 feet up a janky-ass, freestanding ladder to retrieve your last item. After navigating said janky-ass ladder into the backroom aisle. After having rolled open this heavy backroom aisle. After interrupting another employee’s work in a neighboring aisle. (BTW, these costly mobile aisles created no additional space, only headaches. )
Or, this human searched in the walk-in freezer and was able to find (!) your Tatooed Chef frozen dinner. In a case pack. In the middle. Of a pallet. In the back of the freezer. After slipping on slimey ice goop on the freezer floor.
To be clear, this human is happy to have fulfilled your order. For the love of everything holy, come pick up your stuff. We just spent an additional $10-$20 precious payroll $ putting your abandoned stuff back on the sales floor. If you care…
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2023.03.24 12:49 Money_Efficiency_257 Top 5 email marketing strategies that you must apply now to boost your conversions!

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2023.03.24 12:48 BoltsNolesRaysBucs [Identify] Gevril GV2 value

Hello all,
Pictures here
I have this Gevril GV2 Stadium Ref 4010R Limited Edition with a rubber strap from at least 16 years ago that I've only put on my wrist twice for a total of probably 30 seconds. It's spent its whole life in the box it came in. I really don't know much about decent watches, so I came to you experts. From the little bit of info I can find online, since it has the date at the 3 o'clock position, it has the ETA 2836-2 movement. It's never been serviced or worn but just from taking it out of the box for pictures it does tick fwiw. I can only find a few similar models for sale online and I think the prices are inflated and unrealistic but I don't know. Case is 42mm, lug to lug is ~45-46mm, 20mm lugs. No wear or scratches anywhere on the watch, but the finish on the wooden box is weirdly cracking, but only visually, nothing is flaking off, I'm not sure why.
Ebay $1029 Ebay $999 Ebay used $499 Chrono24 (Cl888 movement) $800 Amazon 3rd party (Cl888) $999
What would you think it's worth? Also if there's anything else you can tell me about it, that'd be great. Thank you very much.
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2023.03.24 12:48 NikkolasKing Dutch - Romanticism & Civilization

turncloaks asked in a thread a few weeks ago on why Dutch is opposed to civilization. I wanted to offer a more substantive reply to this than was really given in the other thread.
First off, we have to look at what RDR shows us of "Civilization"
"Okay, there she is...a real city...the future."
Civilization Triumphant
Notice how Saint-Denis is basically Mordor from Lord of the Rings. (or more like Isengard for hardcore LOTR nerds - an outpost of brutal industrialization in a still wild land) Imposing, ominous, a black stain upon pure wilderness. By RDR1, "the future" Dutch and Arthur so detested was here in force. John has to listen to rich hags brag about how they've "civilized" the Natives, either by genociding them or reducing them to living like animals, while a priest - a symbol of "civilized purity and goodness" - boasts about how savages don't get to go to Heaven.
We've set the scene, we've set the mood. The games are unambiguous in that "Progress" is disgusting, immoral, and inevitable.
Part of what drew me to the game in the first place was what I read of the character of Dutch van der Linde. This game ultimately might be the story of one man's (Arthur's) journey to redemption but as compelling as that is, it wasn't what drew me to play it for myself. I was far more intrigued by the overarching story of the gang as a whole - the story of these holdouts fighting the encroachment of civilization and capitalism. I had sympathies with al this long before I heard of this game, or even before it came out. I might not be a philosopher or even a philosophy student, but I have done my best to read and learn since about 2016 or so. I figured I could share at least some of that with other fans and help flesh out the game. A great piece of art has to say something in my view so what is Red Dead Redemption 2 saying?
Arthur: We're thieves, in a world that don't want us no more.
Dutch: We are dreamers, in an ever-duller world of facts, I'll give you that.
Dutch: It's the illlnes of romantics.
Arthur: What is?
Dutch: Hope
What is Romanticism?
Having posited a rejection of capitalist modernity as the foundation and first phase of Romanticism, we need to specify our concept further, since Romanticism represents just one modality, a particular tonality in which critiques of the modern world may be couched. The Romantic critique is bound up with an experience of loss. The Romantic vision is characterized by the painful and melancholic conviction that in modern reality something precious has been lost, at the level of both individuals and humanity at large; certain essential human values have been alienated. This alienation, keenly sensed, is often experienced as exile: in defining the Romantic sensibility, Friedrich Schlegel speaks of the soul “under the willows of exile” (unter den Trauerweiden der Verbannung);44 the soul, the seat of humanness, now lives far removed from its true hearth or homeland (Heimat); thus according to Arnold Hauser “the feeling of homelessness (Heimatslosigkeit) and loneliness became the fundamental experience” of the Romantics at the beginning of the nineteenth century.45 And Walter Benjamin, himself deeply imbued with this worldview, sees in the German Romantics’ appeal to dream life an indication of the obstacles raised by real life on the “path of the soul’s homeward journey to the motherland” (der Heimweg der Seele ins Mutterland).46
The soul ardently desires to go home again, to return to its homeland, in the spiritual sense, and this nostalgia is at the heart of the Romantic attitude. What is lacking in the present existed once upon a time, in a more or less distant past. The defining characteristic of that past is its difference from the present: the past is the period in which the various modern alienations did not yet exist. Romantic nostalgia looks to a precapitalist past, or at least to a past in which the modern socioeconomic system was not yet fully developed. Thus nostalgia for the past is—to borrow a term from Marx and Engels, who noted this feature among the English capitalists—“closely linked” to the critique of the capitalist world.47
The past that is the object of nostalgia may be entirely mythological or legendary, as in the reference to Eden, to the Golden Age, or to the lost Atlantis. It may also constitute a personal myth, like the “mysterious City” in Nerval’s Aurélia.48 But even in the many instances in which a real historical past is invoked, the past is always idealized. The Romantic vision selects a moment from the actual past in which the harmful characteristics of modernity did not yet exist and in which the human values that have been since stifled by modernity were still operative; that moment is then transformed into a utopia, shaped as the embodiment of Romantic aspirations. This is one way to explain the seeming paradox according to which the Romantic orientation toward the past can also involve looking ahead; the image of a dreamed-of future beyond the contemporary world is inscribed within the evocation of a precapitalist era.
Primitive societies, the Hebrew people of the biblical era, Greek and Roman antiquity, the English Renaissance, the Old Regime in France—all these served as vehicles for the Romantic vision. The choice—and especially the interpretation—of a particular period in the past depended on the specific orientation of the form of Romanticism in question.
Nostalgia for a lost paradise is generally accompanied by a quest for what has been lost. An active principle at the heart of Romanticism has often been noted in various forms: anxiety, a state of perpetual becoming, interrogation, quest, struggle. In general, then, a third moment is constituted by an active response, an attempt to find or to re-create the ideal past state; there is such a thing, nevertheless, as a resigned Romanticism.
Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity
I think this fits Dutch's overall philosophy to the letter. In fact, it might be an underlying philosophy of the game, too. The feeling of "loss," of being obsolete and unwanted, of "none of this really matters" is present from the start, even in the more joyful parts of the game. I remember Arthur having a talk with Mary-Beth all the way in Chapter 2 about how none of this matters because the world doesn't want people like them anymore. They fight and they fight and they fight, and none of it did any good, as Dutch says himself in RDR1. Arthur may have realized it sooner, or he may have simply accepted it sooner, owing more to his very different temperament from Dutch. But I don't think enough people really stress how very similar Dutch and Arthur are in their basic view of the world, the main difference is how they act on this worldview. John is the same. Our two heroes fundamentally agree with Dutch in their disdain for civilization.
That is how I understood the whole relationship Arthur had with both Hamish and especially Charlotte To continue quoting from the book:
A second tendency seeks to rediscover paradise in present reality. [...] But one may also choose to flee bourgeois society, leaving cities behind for the country, trading modern countries for exotic ones, abandoning the centers of capitalist development for some “elsewhere” that keeps a more primitive past alive in the present. The approach of exoticism is a search for a past in the present by a mere displacement in space. Nodier brings the fundamental principle of exoticism to light when he explains that his tales Smarra and Trilby are set in a wild Scottish landscape because it is only by leaving Europe behind that one can find remnants of humanity’s springtime, an idyllic period in which the sources of the imagination and sensitivity had not yet dried up.53
Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity
This is Charlotte to the letter. In order to discover a more true, authentic, and noble life, she and her husband fled the city and the modern world. Hamish doesn't say he specifically did this but, as Arthur points out, it isn't like he gets much company where he lives. He lives off the land just like Charlotte does. To me, this feels like Arthur's ultimate "tendency" as the book calls it. There is no pushing back the modern world, the best you can do is retreat from it and save your soul by living in harmony with the natural world. Arthur bonds with Hamish over this simple way of life and he teaches Charlotte how to survive this way of lie. These are two people living his dream, in essence.
Dutch, by contrast...
A third tendency holds the preceding solutions to be illusory, or in any event merely partial; it embarks on the path of authentic future realization. [...] From the standpoint that is oriented toward future accomplishments, that of Percy Bysshe Shelley, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, William Morris, or Walter Benjamin, for example, the recollection of the past serves as a weapon in the struggle for the future. A well-known poem by Blake gives remarkable expression to this view. In a short text that is part of the preface to Milton, the poet wonders whether the divine presence manifested itself in England “in ancient time,” before its hills were covered by “these dark Satanic mills.” In conclusion, he commits himself to a “spiritual struggle” that will end only when “we have built Jerusalem/in Englands green & pleasant land.”55 In this form of Romanticism, the quest aims at the creation of a new Jerusalem.
Romanticism Against the Tide of Modernity
And to quote a description of Jean-Jacques Rousseau from a different book....
To describe that influence in a somewhat different way, Rousseau may be said to have inaugurated the “radical tradition” of philosophical discontent with modernity which, since his time, has formed a permanent and integral part of modernity itself—culminating today in the declaration of a new, “post-modern” era. Standing at the threshold of the “modern age” inaugurated by the American, French, and Industrial revolutions, the threshold of that long journey toward technological, welfare-capitalist/socialist, liberal, mass, democratic society that today still goes by the name of “modernization”—Rousseau was the first to cry, “stop.” And in presenting his classic diagnosis of the ills of modern society—the loss of social and psychic unity—he defined the problem which succeeding generations of critical thinkers would try to solve.
Of course, Rousseau was not simply the first to cry stop to modernization, since many had done so before him in the name of the ancien regime and the old monarchic and Christian principles. But he was the first to do so as a more advanced adherent of the new modern ideas. The Enlightenment and the new Party of Reason had plenty of enemies; Rousseau was its first defector, its first “dialectical” opponent. His defection, moreover, turned out to be the founding event of a since unbroken tradition of modern self-hatred, of protest against modernity arising from within the modern camp, and the first clear indication of the theoretical instability and continuously self-devouring character of the modern revolution.
In other words, Rousseau became the prototype of the modern alienated intellectual: the thinker who agrees with the modern rejection of the principles that underlay the classical and Christian worlds, but who nevertheless loathes the new world that these modern ideas have created. Knowing the man-made character of this world, and blaming it for the unhealthy state of his own soul, he seeks the restoration of the world and his soul through a still more radical, progressive application of these modern ideas.
The Natural Goodness of Man: On the System of Rousseau's Thought
Dutch says at one point that, for as bad as the New World is, the Old World was even worse. While some things may be open to interpretation about his character, his hatred for the Old World - which arguably manifests in his hatred of the Old South given its close likeness to America's European ancestry - seems beyond doubt to me. He is not content with simply retreating from the modern world, nor is he happy to try and rebuild some ancient society. He wants something radically different from both the past and present. He wants to take those modern ideals of liberation and realize them, turn them from just a fiction on a piece of paper to a real utopia. Fight back against modernity tooth and nail, don't run from it is how I view him vs. Arthur. Could be the difference between an idealist (Dutch) and a realist (Arthur).
If there is any past he might valorize or deem noble, it is that of non-European peoples, like Native Americans. To quote yet another book on Rousseau:
The origins of what we call the romantic “enchanted garden” can be found among the early romantics, that is to say the writers and philosophers usually identified as romantic. Although for us the romantic worldview is not limited to the so-called Romantic period but is alive in modern culture up to the present, the early romantics were undoubtedly the ones who laid the first stepping-stones of the unfinished romantic narrative. Romanticism of course does not have a single birth date. But if we wanted to pick one moment as a symbolic starting point it might be 1755, the year in which Jean-Jacques Rousseau published his Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality among Men. This astonishing document constitutes perhaps the first romantic manifesto, with its ferocious critique of modern civilization and celebration of the “noble savage.” The association between these two topoi is to be found among many later romantic writers and artists, from the eighteenth century up to our time, as will be evident throughout this book.
While Voltaire, the great proponent of Enlightenment and progress, pictures indigenous peoples as anthropophagic barbarians in his philosophical satire Candide (1759), the romantic Rousseau sees them as “the true youth of the world.” For him, all the subsequent steps of progress, which were supposed to lead towards the perfection of the individual, “were in effect steps towards the degradation (décrépitude) of the species.” The savage “breathes only rest and freedom,” while civilized man “works until he dies” and is “proud of his serfdom.”10 In fact, Rousseau emphasizes, the barbarian “refuses to bow his head to the yoke that the civilized person bears without grumbling,” and prefers the most dangerous freedom to the most peaceful submission. In a passage that seems almost to foresee anticolonial struggles, Rousseau argues that the love of freedom is so strong among “savages” that they “are willing to face hunger, fire, iron and death to keep their independence.”11 Although the philosopher’s “state of nature” may be a fiction, his portrayal of the life of primitive peoples is almost surely based on travelers reports. Rousseau in any case often explicitly refers in his essay to specific groups: Hottentots, Caribbeans, and “savages of the Americas.”12
Romantic Anti-capitalism and Nature
Remember how Dutch shoots down Bill's racism on the way to kill Bronte. Note how he follows this up by talking about how he had tried to "teach" all of them something. What had he tried to teach? That America far away from European tyranny was "God's last creation." I suspect it's as close as anything to Dutch's ideal.
Now, a word that comes up a lot in RDR is "Civilization." Arthur says it right at the start and it's repeated all throughout the game. Well, what is civilization? It's another tricky word to define. I enjoy this distinction and definition:
Our word “culture” and the German term “Kultur” are both derived from the Latin colere, “to cultivate.” In the early modern period, it was used – rather rarely – as a metaphor to describe the social and political “cultivation” of civilization, the process of civilizing a person out of a barbaric state. In the late eighteenth century, however, the notion of culture underwent a significant change, transformed in the thought of J. G. Herder, Immanuel Kant, and J. G. Fichte.6 After this transformation, culture became a quite frequent – even everyday term – in the West.7
The main change these thinkers effected was to oppose culture and civilization. Along with Jean-Jacques Rousseau, these philosophers challenged civilization and the civilized person.8 According to this critique, civilization satisfies our bodily needs and creates external order and peace, but it fails to attend to our spiritual needs and inner longings. Modern civilization possesses an artificial character – in its manners, its impersonal bureaucratic forms of rule, its obsession with economic development – that destroys the spiritual unity of the people. Moreover, the secular character of modern civilization – in particular, the decline of religious influence on individuals’ lives, summed up by Nietzsche as the “death of God” – frustrates our spiritual need for our life to have meaning or significance. In short, modern civilization reliably produces comfort, pleasure, wealth, and abundance, but it also undermines communal belonging, civic virtue and nobility, and spiritual self-development.
These thinkers did not want to turn back the clock to ancient politics or medieval religious societies, but rather developed another form of community alongside civilization, a distinctively modern form of spiritual community that could infuse meaning and purpose into modern civilization. They referred to this form of community as Kultur. 9 They drew on the received notion of culture as involving a process of education but decisively transformed the character of that education. Whereas civilization prepares individuals to be useful for the material aims of society, politics, and market, culture shapes individuals to participate in the common spiritual – especially moral, artistic, and philosophical – pursuit of the good life. For Kant, Fichte, and Herder, the purpose of culture is to realize human freedom, for the human spirit to elevate itself out of a condition of animal instinct and determine its own fate. Culture, then, is a replacement for the role of religion in political society and human life, but instead of serving the purpose of reflecting the will of God, culture serves to reflect and ennoble humanity’s freedom. In other words, according to these philosophers, culture is not opposed to freedom and equality but at its very origins was understood to be the proper realization of these goods.
For instance, consider this influential passage from Kant’s essay “Idea for a Universal History with a Cosmopolitan Intent”:
We are cultivated [kultiviert] to a high degree by art and science. We are civilized [zivilisiert] to the point of excess in all kinds of social courtesies and propensities. ... While the idea of morality is indeed present in culture [Kultur], an application of this idea which only extends to the semblances of morality, as in love of honor and outward propriety, amounts merely to civilization. But as long as states apply all their resources to their vain and violent schemes of expansion, thus incessantly obstructing the slow and laborious efforts of their citizens to cultivate their minds, and even deprive them of all support in these efforts, no progress in this direction can be expected. For a long internal process of careful work on the part of each commonwealth is necessary for the education [Bildung] of its citizens. (Idea 49)
For Kant, civilization undermines our project of moral progress, attaching us to the material goods of social status (through the “semblances of morality,” social manners) and political power (through state “expansion”). Culture, by contrast, promotes moral progress by attaching us to the ends of the arts and sciences and supplying us with the “idea of morality.” Finally, Kant suggests here that politics plays an important role in promoting culture in its people by supplying the right “education of its citizens.”10
While Kant speaks of the “splendid misery” of materialist civilization (Idea 49), Herder attacks the moral self-aggrandizement and chauvinism of modern Enlightenment civilization (LAH 380). For Herder, modern progressive civilization asks us to “over-extend” our “feelings,” which leads us to “blur them into mere words and generate nothing but misery for itself and everybody else,” whereas the “savage who loves himself, his wife and child, with quiet joy” is at peace with the world (Ideas 400).11 Like Kant, Herder opposes culture to civilization.12 He says that “culture” (Kultur) – derived from “the cultivation of the ground” – has as its purpose the “education” (Erziehung) and “enlightenment” (Aufklärung) of a people (Ideas 410). Culture consists in the “education of mankind” (Erziehung des Menschengeschlechts) (Ideas 407).
Nietzsche's Culture of Humanity: Beyond Aristocracy and Democracy in the Early Period
Civilization is, in brief, the most superficial things humans have ever created. In the name of so-called progress or morality, It is the opening of RDR1. Enlightened Europeans and Americans destroyed "primitive" peoples and ways of life. Now people get to live in complacency and arrogance about how they're o much better than everyone who came before when in reality they're infinitely worse off in all the ways that truly matter. George Bernard Shaw framed it as:
If you had said to him, 'We may be in hell ; but we feel extremely comfortable ', Ruskin, being a genuinely religious man, would have replied, That simply shows that you are dammed to the uttermost depths of damnation, because not only are you in hell, but you like being in hell'.
Ruskin's Politics
In conclusion, let me answer the question I posted at the beginning. "What is Red Dead saying?" The American government and industrialists have perpetrated crimes that dwarf anything the gang ever could have done. They erased entire Peoples and cultures. Thousands, tens of thousands, dead, countless more ethnically cleansed. Dutch and Arthur and the gang lived in a time when the United States was a genocidal empire and they saw it first hand. They tried to fight it, they tried to maintain some freedom. That is why the gang is mostly composed of exploited people like various minorities or the women or even drug addicts. No matter how bad they were, they were better to their own than the state was to its own. The gang fought hard for Dutch's "savage utopia" but the war was over before it began, just like all groups who tried to fight "Civilization."
submitted by NikkolasKing to RDR2 [link] [comments]

2023.03.24 12:48 tayrit Figure At The Foot Of The BED

I was always afraid of the dark as a child. The unknown and unseen things that lurked in the shadows frightened me to my core. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I finally started to overcome my fear. I was living in a small town in the middle of nowhere, and my apartment was surrounded by thick woods. At night, the darkness outside my window was absolute. But I had gotten used to it, and it didn't scare me anymore.
One night, I woke up in the middle of the night, feeling like someone was watching me. I opened my eyes, and my heart leaped into my throat as I saw a figure standing at the foot of my bed. I couldn't make out any features, but I could feel the weight of its gaze upon me. Its eyes seemed to glow red in the darkness, and I could feel its malevolent energy emanating from its very being.
I tried to scream, but no sound came out. I tried to move, but my body was frozen. The figure just stood there, watching me, for what felt like hours. My eyes were locked onto the red eyes of the figure, and I could feel its gaze burning into my soul. My mind was screaming for me to move, to do something, but my body wouldn't obey.
Finally, the figure turned and left the room. I was able to move again, and I jumped out of bed, turning on all the lights in my apartment. I searched every inch of my home, but there was no sign of anyone. I thought it was just a nightmare, but I couldn't shake the feeling that it was something more.
Over the next few weeks, I saw the figure again and again. Each time, it would just stand there, watching me. I started to feel like I was losing my mind. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't focus on anything. I was terrified all the time.
One day, I decided to do some research. I found out that the land my apartment was built on used to be a burial ground for a Native American tribe. The graves had been dug up and moved to a different location, but it seemed like something had been left behind. The thought of that made my blood run cold.
I tried to ignore it, telling myself that it was just my imagination, but things started to get worse. I would hear strange noises at night, like footsteps in the hallway, but when I would look, no one was there. Objects would move on their own, and the temperature in my apartment would drop to freezing. I knew that something was wrong.
Then, one night, the figure appeared again. But this time, it was different. It didn't just stand there and watch me. It spoke.
Its voice was like nothing I had ever heard before. It was deep and gravelly, and it filled the room. It said only one thing: "Leave."
I knew then that I had to get out of there. I packed up my things and left that night, never looking back.
But the nightmare didn't end there. The figure followed me. I could feel its presence everywhere I went. I tried to ignore it, but it was always there, lurking just out of sight. It would whisper my name in the darkness, taunting me, tormenting me.
I thought I was going crazy. I went to see a psychiatrist, but they couldn't find anything wrong with me. I tried to tell myself that it was just my imagination, but deep down, I knew the truth.
Then, one night, the figure appeared in my dreams. It was more terrifying than ever before. Its eyes burned into my soul, and I could feel its malevolent energy suffocating me. It whispered in my as I left my apartment, I couldn't shake the feeling of dread that had settled over me. I knew that I was doing the right thing by leaving, but I also knew that whatever had been watching me wasn't going to let me go so easily.
The drive to my friend's house was long and quiet, and the darkness outside seemed to stretch on forever. Every shadow seemed to be hiding something, and every noise made my heart race. When I finally arrived, I collapsed on my friend's couch, exhausted and afraid.
Over the next few days, I tried to put the experience behind me. I told myself that it had all been in my head, that there was no such thing as ghosts or demons or anything else that could scare me. But deep down, I knew that I was lying to myself.
One night, as I was lying in bed, I heard a strange sound coming from outside. It was a low, guttural growling that seemed to be getting closer and closer. I tried to ignore it, but the noise continued, louder and more menacing with each passing second.
Suddenly, there was a loud crash, and the sound of breaking glass filled the air. I leapt out of bed and ran to the window, my heart racing with fear. Outside, I could see a dark figure moving in the shadows. It was too dark to make out any features, but I knew that it was the same thing that had been watching me before.
As I stood there, frozen with fear, the figure turned and looked directly at me. Its eyes glowed red in the darkness, and I could feel its malevolent energy coursing through the air. And then, just like before, it vanished into the night.
I knew then that there was no escaping whatever was haunting me. It was following me, stalking me, and I had no idea how to stop it.
Over the next few days, the incidents became more and more frequent. Every night, I would hear strange noises coming from outside my window, and every day, I would see dark shapes moving in the corners of my vision. I was afraid to sleep, afraid to leave my house, afraid to do anything.
And then, one night, I woke up to find that my entire bedroom was engulfed in flames. The fire had started in the corner of the room, and it was spreading quickly. I tried to get out of bed, but the heat was too intense. I could feel my skin starting to blister, and I knew that I was going to die.
Just as I was about to give up, the figure appeared before me. It was taller than I remembered, and its eyes blazed with an otherworldly fire. But this time, instead of terror, I felt a sense of calm wash over me.
"Leave," it said again, its voice echoing through the flames.
I knew then that I had to do whatever it took to survive. I managed to crawl to my window and break it open, and I climbed out onto the roof. From there, I was able to jump down to the ground and run to safety.
But even as I escaped, I knew that the figure was still following me. I could feel its presence lurking just beyond the edges of my consciousness, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
For months, I lived in a constant state of fear. I moved from place to place, trying to stay one step ahead of whatever was chasing me. But no matter where I went, I couldn't escape the feeling that I was being watched.
And then, one day, I stumbled upon an old book in a secondhand store. It was written in a language that I didn't recognize, but something about it called to me. I bought the book and took it
I tried to calm myself down and remind myself that there was probably a logical explanation for everything. But deep down, I knew that what I had experienced was not normal.
Over the next few days, I started to feel like I was being watched all the time, even when I was outside during the day. I couldn't shake the feeling that something was following me. I would hear strange noises and see shadows moving out of the corner of my eye. I knew that I couldn't go on living like this, so I decided to do some research on the history of the town.
After a few hours of digging, I found out that there had been a series of brutal murders in the town many years ago. The killer had never been caught, and the murders had stopped suddenly, without explanation. There were rumors that the killer had been possessed by an evil spirit, and that the spirit was still wandering the town, searching for its next victim.
I was horrified. It seemed like every piece of information I found only made things worse. I couldn't escape the feeling that I was being hunted.
One night, as I was lying in bed, I heard a faint scratching sound coming from outside my window. At first, I thought it was just a tree branch or a stray animal. But the sound continued, getting louder and more persistent. I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't shake the feeling that something was trying to get in.
Finally, I got out of bed and cautiously approached the window. As I got closer, the scratching sound grew louder and more frenzied. When I looked out, I saw a pair of glowing red eyes staring back at me. I stumbled back in terror, knocking over a lamp and plunging the room into darkness.
I could hear something moving outside my window, scraping against the glass. I was frozen with fear, unable to move or speak. Then, suddenly, there was a loud crash, and the window shattered.
I screamed and scrambled away from the broken window, hiding under my blankets like a child. I could hear something moving around in my room, knocking over furniture and breathing heavily. I was sure that I was going to die.
But then, just as suddenly as it had started, the chaos stopped. There was silence for a moment, and then a voice spoke to me. It was a deep, raspy voice that seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere at once.
"Leave this place," the voice said. "You do not belong here."
I was too terrified to argue. I scrambled to my feet, grabbing my keys and running out the door. As I ran down the street, I could feel something chasing me, but I didn't dare look back.
When I got to my car, I fumbled with the keys, my hands shaking so badly that I almost dropped them. Finally, I managed to get the car started and peeled out of there as fast as I could.
I didn't stop until I was miles away from that town, and even then, I didn't feel safe. I was haunted by nightmares for weeks afterward, and I could never shake the feeling that something was following me.
Years have passed since that night, and I've tried my best to move on. But I still think about it sometimes, and I wonder if I'll ever be able to forget.
submitted by tayrit to nosleep [link] [comments]

2023.03.24 12:48 Sphel-- What are the ages of you and your partner?

I saw an article recently about how more and more young men (20s) are single, and about how it could be due to younger women seeking significantly older men. For me (M23) I don't date romantically below 20 because any lower and the person feels undeveloped. Their way of thinking is too shallow and different to mine, their brains are 4 years behind mine in terms of development and any date I go on with anyone below that I can really tell. Whereas I know people whose friends (~20F) are taking 25-28 year old men back home with them. It feels like I'm in a dating age limbo where anyone old enough for me is interested is people older. So what are the ages of people and their partners, or their prospective dating pools?
submitted by Sphel-- to dating_advice [link] [comments]

2023.03.24 12:47 Rhion-618 Just One Drop - Ch 77

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The Cast / Chapter Links
Just One Drop
CH 77 – The Man in Who these Marvels Can Do

It was the day before Shel, and lunch was becoming a more crowded affair.
Since Melondi’s secret had come out, the girls had taken to favoring a mid-sized table that seated twelve – a sensible number. A small affair no more than twenty feet long, the table was well situated, away from the center of the floor and off to one side. That had been useful, as the layout of the cafeteria put the table near the kitchen freezer. There was an awkward chill in that corner of the room which made it unpopular, and without other students about, the table offered relative privacy.
Of course, twelve was ideal, as it conformed to the needs of their class. The girls of the Practical Humanity class had faced more than their share of scrutiny since the term began, and privacy had become a cherished commodity. Whether it was from curious girls wanting to know what the Human was like, to its current, more immediate needs, the isolation of the spot had made the table a welcome retreat.
That said, today it was getting a bit crowded, and with everyone there, an additional three seats had been needed, with girls shoving in from the sides.
Khe’lark’s attachment to Gun’brei… or more accurately, Brei’s attachment to Lark… had started things, of course. There was usually room for one more, certainly if one of the girls was off somewhere else and missing lunch. Since Melondi’s secret had become a shared one, the table had become a place where Mel could, on occasion, talk less circumspectly. While she’d never slipped up otherwise, she could relax and enjoy her friends without being quite so guarded.
Things had been different before, when Brei hadn’t been cleared by Agent Duvari.
Melondi had never resented Brei as an intrusion, but it was a fact of life that she hadn’t noticed before. The ability to talk with her friends, even in the most circumspect way, had replaced her utter secrecy – or worse, the crafted lies about her history. When Brei joined them for lunch, Melondi had to go back into hiding… and Brei’s presence brought with her a visceral feeling of the loss.
When Kzintshki arrived, the twelve and sometimes thirteen turned to thirteen and sometimes fourteen.
The Pesrin girl’s presence was unmistakable. Kzintshkil was… different. It wasn’t only the matter of her being alien – another species entirely, with her own loyalties and agenda. It was more that Kzintshki kept her own counsel, and while Melondi knew how to read people - even people from other races - the Pesrin girl was largely a closed book. It wasn't something she was used to. She was good with reading people, no matter the species. Generally.
…That carrion incident with the Rakiri delegate could have happened to anybody!...
Of course, while it wasn’t always a full table, fourteen was manageable. Today there were fifteen people crowding in for lunch, which was pushing it.
Not that Prindi Ama’dis was unwelcome. The IOTC girl was another friend of Lark’s by way of the campus vblog; thankfully the question of who knew her secret had largely been settled – both by her request, and the actions of her handler, Agent Duvari. Now her friends knew, which was a greater relief than she’d imagined it could be. Professor Warrick knew, and he’d be allowed to tell Professor Pel’avon. He was holding off until they were back from the ‘honeymoon’. It was an odd term for the usual getaway after a wedding, and he’d explained it as something to do with newly wed couples slipping away for a month and drinking a lot of something called mead. Melondi figured she should have a word of quiet thanks to Professor Pel’avon for taking up so much of Professor Warrick’s time… but it would wait until they were back.
Gun’brei had been oddly muted after finding out. While Brei was a baroness’ daughter, Agent Duvari had opted to lay things out to her in private, as ‘she had an abiding interest in the news’. That probably meant several threats behind closed doors, a reading of general order 24, and signing waivers that didn’t mention words like ‘frozen tundra’. They didn’t need to - Duvari tended to make herself clear enough. It was hard to believe the same bubbly music professor could be so frigid as an Agent, but Duvari had no problems with being convincing.
Melondi looked over at Lark and pursed her lips thoughtfully.
…I still need to make things up to her. I don’t know if clearing Brei counts…
That left the IOTC girls, and as she looked up the table at Prindi, it was hard to believe the world she’d crafted here at the Academy had changed so dramatically. As Lark’s friend, Prindi made an easy liaison with the IOTC girls. Even so, it was tight with her here, and if more of them showed up, something would have to give.
She’d planned to tell her friends, someday… After graduation, when she was off on her own, she’d hoped that some of them might still be in reach… and understanding. They’d all be off starting their own lives, working in their House companies, starting careers, or managing the family holdings. Everyone would go their different ways. But her sister Khelandri’s death had changed everything. She could enjoy her friends now, instead of later, wondering if they would still be hers when she revealed herself as a princess.
It was a bright note in a dark situation, and she cherished it for what it was. She had friends. Real friends that had come to know her outside of the Palace, without any agendas… and she had the time – over two more years – before adult life sent them off on their own paths.
…At least, if I live that long…
That was a gloomy thought, and it was hard to hold onto it. She’d only just hung up on a call from Vedeem. Whenever she talked to him, the future didn’t seem so dark. He’d accepted her for who and what she was as a person… and then he’d done it all over again for who and what she was as a Princess.
…Screw Kamaud’re! I want to live!...
“That was Vedeem. He says they’re putting up a sign and closing the restaurant for a week to ‘celebrate the birth of a boy in the family.'Everything’s ready to start the training tomorrow at 9.” She raised her voice over the animated conversations going on. It was lunch, after all, and with all the jockeying of plates and trays and dishes and whatnot, it was a scramble. If any more girls showed up from the IOTC, they’d have to do something… or at least get a round table. No one could reach anything. “Prindi, can you let your cadre know?”
It was bad timing, since the girl just took a bite, but she nodded quickly, chewing frantically.
“Just take it easy…” Mel looked around past the table with an exaggerated glance. “The nod’s all I need, and you’ll like Vedeem… Hands off, though!”
As a young girl, she’d never expected that she’d need to warn anyone away from her boyfriend… when she finally got one, no one would dare. Just now? If all of this felt new to her, it must be like a bucket of icy surf landing on the IOTC girls… and Vedeem was hers!
Prindi finally cleared her throat and nodded again. “Yes, ummm…”
“Melondi,” she offered helpfully. While the IOTC girl had been giving her curious looks now and then, she’d tried her best to hide them. She still looked like she was struggling. “Remember, it’s just Melondi.”
“Yes…” The idea of calling a Princess something informal looked like it was sticking in the girl’s throat, and she took a way out. “I’ll let them know after lunch.”
“Thank you!” Mel called back. It was something Mother had always insisted on and Lady Wicama had taught her well. Good manners were for everyone. It had even seen her through that carrion incident, though she hadn’t even been five at the time…
…Come to think of it, it was Kamaud’re who ‘helped me out’… and was laughing the loudest…
She felt an ugly blush start to rise, but it faded just as quickly. She’d never known her elder sister except as a distant figure, not a part of her life, really. Even without the attempt on her life, It had grown a lot easier in the last few months not to care for Kamaud’re at all.
The table didn’t take much notice. Jax was in an animated conversation with Nestha about business, while the twins were actually giggling about something. Most of the talk had been about class, though Belda was getting a lot of ribbing and good natured pokes from the others. Tonight was the big night, after all. Even Kzintshki was quietly talking to Desi about the weekend. As the outsider, Prindi seemed to be struggling to fit in, though she hid it well.
“I’m glad you could join us, Prindi,” Melondi offered brightly, trying to keep the girl from feeling too isolated. “I know we sort of keep to ourselves; there was a lot of attention after we got into Professor Warrick’s class. It was a little rough after registration, and you wouldn’t believe some of the questions we got after he did the Marriage Fundamentals seminar.”
“That was rough.” Sephir nodded. “I had one girl ask me if he had any boys in his family, and when they’d be coming. That was pretty embarrassing.”
“Embarrassing?” Prindi blinked doubtfully as she reoriented on Sephir. At 6’11, it seemed impossible to miss the girl. Sephir was a star of the Academy diving team with muscles like titanium cables, but she was so polite and unassuming that it often came as a surprise when she spoke up in conversation. She’d been a lot happier since her future in her House had been sorted, though, and at the moment she was grinning cheerfully at the bewildered look on Prindi’s face.
Prindi cocked her head uncertainly. “How was it embarrassing?”
“Oh… It's just… his wife and his daughter were killed when the Imperium arrived on Earth.”
Belda winced, but still looked relieved at no longer being the center of attention; at least she’d finally stopped blushing.
“Professor Pel’avon asked us not to talk about it at first,” said Sephir with a nod. Even if she looked like a recruiting poster for the Marines, she was a caregiver at heart, and had always shied away from talking about what Warrick called ‘the landings.' “Professor Warrick… Well, you can tell it still hurts him.”
“Yeah,” Nestha chipped in. “He’s smart… and a lot tougher than you’d expect. You just can't think of him as a male.”
Human male.” Desi broke off her conversation with Kzintshki. “There’s a whole lot going on with him that even the rest of you don’t see. He and I talk a lot at the museum.”
“Is it true he adopted both of you?” Prindi asked, looking from Desi to Kzintshki and back, Melondi forgotten for the first time. “We all heard things and there were a lot of questions after the wedding… I mean, like the dancers! Where did they even come fr-“
“Yes, it's true! Both of us!” Desi broke in abruptly, interrupting Prindi’s train of thought, and Mel started breathing again. If word got out about the Tide Pool, it would probably need more than a General Order and a very angry Interior Agent to keep quiet. Desi was nodding frantically as she enthusiastically changed the subject. “We don’t talk about the wedding, but it's true! It became official when Professor Pel’avon married him. They’re my mothers and father, now.”
“Wow, that’s…” Prindi’s brows knitted a bit as she struggled with the whole wedding. Sure, the whole school had seen it, but the response had been more of a collective silence from around the table. Prindi took the hint and offered a smile. “So… What do you talk about, then? I mean, if not the wedding? What about this war sim? The rest of the cadre couldn’t believe it! I hope we weren’t whispering too loud. Most of us were glued to our omni-pads, gossiping on our Discuss channel. Everybody wants to know more… I can't wait to go through these files!”
“We don’t talk about the war sim. We have team meetings, but aside from those, we don’t. There’s a lot of extra credit on the line,” Dihsala said firmly, giving her a solid nod. “None of us know what’s on those files, though we had an exchange professor that… well, I don’t think she understood the material.”
“Careful, Dihsala, you’re in danger of being kind,” Pris muttered, though there wasn’t any heat in it.
Dihsala sniffed, but said nothing.
Pris pressed on, waving her fork-full of pickled jawaa like a baton. “She’s right, though. None of us know what's in the files, and we probably shouldn’t. Professor Warrick uses this method of teaching… It’s sort of like discovering the material a bit at a time and figuring it out as we go.”
“That sounds… really odd.” Prindi was canting her head fully now, and Mel could just imagine what the girl was thinking. It had been an adjustment. The IOTC girl looked back at Desi, “Sorry. It just does.”
“You don’t have to convince me.” Desi nodded sympathetically, wearing an easy smile. “Once you get used to muppets and furbys-”
“Oh! And ALF!” Jax’mi, broke in, laughing.
“And his music, though that’s really good,” offered one of the twins, as the other nodded. “And we get free movies - things that haven't made it here from Earth yet!”
“It’s a lot, but after a while nothing phases you.” Desi grinned infectiously. “Oh! Mel! Do we know if Aku is going to make it to… you know… the event?”
“I’ll have to ask.” Melondi shook herself out of the reverie of listening. “I know the invitation is getting sent. We can find out tomorrow.”
“Oh…Right.” Desi nodded, but looked back at her plate, subdued. No one knew they were going to the Palace tomorrow except Agent Duvari, who was going to escort them, and Desi was still looking pretty shy about the prospect. Still, everybody else had practice at Human Food…
“There was something we’re all kind of curious about, from the sim… I mean, it's not to do with the sim.” Prindi bit her lip, looking around as the table went suddenly quiet. “We all knew about Earth - I mean, he’s Human. Not about his family, but… things. Anyway, some of us were wondering, and now I guess I really am… umm… why doesn’t he hate us like we're some sort of enemy? There are stories, you know?”
“Desi?” One of the twins looked over at her seriously, setting aside whatever they’d been laughing about. Her sister sniffed, a beat behind. “You know him best.”
“Well, obviously he doesn’t. Hate us, I mean. I think he really means it about the Imperium making Humans citizens. Something he said once kind of stuck with me.” Desi grimaced in thought. “He said he didn’t think of the Imperium as his enemy, because the enemy is someone that tells you to hate that which is different from you, because sooner or later that hate comes back to you… and he said the Imperium hasn't done that.”
“We have kind of messed up there,” Jax’mi sighed unhappily. “I mean, all the news I get back from my family on Earth is great! I had the best letter from my Uncle… but my mothers told me stories. Some of the Houses first gifted with business grants on Earth abused them pretty badly. Not a lot, but the ones that did… Well, it wasn’t just one mess. A couple of the Houses got really carried away, and it took a while to sort out.”
“That sounds like a job for the Interior! The Imperium doesn’t tolerate… umm… that is…” Prindi sat a little taller, and her eyes shone with conviction before she stuttered to a halt, blushing as she glanced back to Melondi. “We’re supposed to stop that sort of thing.”
Mel watched as an awkward silence fell around the table, broken only by Kzintshki slicing away bits of her turox with another of her occasional mutters of “Ick”. It wasn't like she could entirely blame them.
The Empire needed the Interior. There were the boisterous and splashy ones, like House Reshay. There were the quietly dutiful ones, like Belda’s House So’sona and the pharmacological company run by Sephir’s House. There were the quietly powerful ones in the background like House Chel’xa… All of them working at what they did best… but sometimes there were incidents. Bad matrons who lost control of their ambitions. The Empire was vast, and when the Houses couldn't police themselves, it was time for the Empress to do it. That's where the Interior came in.
Mother had been working to rein the Interior in, over time… to bring it back to its core mission. She didn’t talk about it very much, but growing up she’d seen it happen. She could still remember the rumblings in court when she named Opimea Potac - an Edixi - to run the Ministry of Justice. People had said things around a six-year-old they didn’t think would be understood - or remembered - even by a six-year-old Princess. As for her cousin Yn’dara and Prince Adam… It had taken time, but Mother had gotten things under control.
…If only she were here now… but she isn't. I have to handle this myself…
That meant she needed the Interior… someday. Right now, she needed these cadets. Glancing down the table, Desi caught her eye and suddenly snorted. “Seriously, Kzintshki!? What is it with ‘ick’ all the time? You were ready to eat my father alive only a month ago. Now you turn your nose up at anything sweet or fatty? When did you turn into a picky eater, for goddess’ sake!”
“You do not understand. Food is plentiful here. That is understood…” The dusky Pesrin set aside her cutlery and eyed Desi coolly. “You have never seen a fat Pesrin.”
“No…” Desi rocked her head to one side, in exasperation. Kzintshki had a way of making statements out of questions. “But I’d never seen a Pesrin at all, until we met you. What's that got to do with it?”
“Shil and its worlds live without scarcity. Pesh does not. You will never will see a fat Pesrin.” Kzintshki replied cooly, blinking at Desi once. Melindi couldn't decide if the Pesrin girl was exasperated or amused without seeing her tail… her asiak. It was hidden under the table, but it seemed like it conveyed a lot of Pesrin body language - or maybe it was just Kzintshki. “Wasting food when it is plentiful is as much of a sin as wasting food when it is scarce.”
“I suppose…” Desi chewed over the idea while the rest of the girls thought it over.
“Besides, I have my figure to consider.”
“Hey, that’s true. I’ve been worried about everything for tonight!” Belda grinned suddenly. “So, are there any cute Pesrin guys around?”
“Perhaps... though I would not impress him if I were slow and fat.”
Mel thought over the reply. The pause was longer than the Pesrin girl usually took to answer, and she wasn't blinking. Sooner or later she’d figure her out. For the moment she watched as Kzintshki picked up her knife and fork, and cut away another bit of turox with particular deliberation. “Ick…”
“So… you girls get free movies, too?” Prindi asked the twins, looking between the pair tentatively, “Stuff that hasn't come out yet? What’s that like?”
“A lot, yes. The Ministry of Relations closed down on a lot of entertainment from Earth. It’s opening back up, but Professor Warrick has a lot of things no one has seen,” offered one of the K’herbhal sisters. Her twin nodded in sync. “Even with things opening up, they’re still screening for, you know…”
“Treason?” Prindi nodded understandingly.
“Porn!” The twins said in unison, giggling. “Not that we mind, though you could ask Belda for all the details. She’s seen Liam with his shirt off!”
“Goddess damn-it!” Belda started turning blue all over again. “It was only almost off! Almost!”
“You know, we could put off movie night until tomorrow. We can bring food back after training in the morning. Take over the room, have a movie marathon and celebrate,” Pris spoke up. “That way Belda can watch, too!”
“Hey, could you?” Belda grinned. “That would be great!”
“Sure… aaaaand that way we get to drag all the juicy details out of you, too!” Pris smiled back serenely. Melondi watched as Belda started blushing again, and muttered as the others laughed. Goddess love her, Bel was such a farmgirl.
“Ummm… what kind of movies?” Prindi asked, brushing her hair back. “Could I come?”
_ _ _
“You know, this is going to sound odd, but I kind of miss driving," Tom said, leaning back in his seat between Miv and Lea.
It was a comfortable way to ride, and the company was the best. Even with an alien landscape speeding by, it was the oddest feeling. Until he’d come to Shil, he’d always been the one doing the driving. Autocabs were quick and efficient, and other than his regular trip out to Human Food, it wasn't like he knew where things were on Shil… but it felt odd.
“You don't have a license.” Miv tousled his hair, looking at him indulgently while Lea curled in tight on the other side. She was happy as a clam they were all together, but she cocked her head, looking at Miv. “It's only a few weeks of study, if you want to get one.”
“Nah. It was just a stray thought. I’m good with being able to pay attention to you two, and it’s nice actually seeing the world go by.” He pulled them both closer, which Miv enjoyed, and made Lea squeak in pleasure. Lea had been a real princess about the lack of attention and she loved sharing with Miv, but with her work out in Creantauri, what could you do? He smiled and leaned in, kissing her lightly on the neck. This weekend would be all about making it up to them both.
Speaking of which, they were just about there…
The drive had given him ample time to cuddle up with Miv and Lea, which had been a lot of fun - but also just the distraction he’d needed. He’d tossed a jacket over the seatback showing the map display, but as the autocab turned into their destination, there was nothing for it…
“Miv, what’s this?” Lea was the first to notice, and she stared out the window as the cab turned in. Jets of brightly lit water began fountaining up on either side of the cab as it made its way up the long drive, the highway quickly out of sight.
Miv’eire pulled his coat off the seat to peer at the map and frowned in consternation as she looked at the display, “This is all wrong.”
“Actually, no, it isn't.” Tom grinned, pulling her back. “We’re exactly where we need to be.”
“But Tom, this isn’t our hotel!” Miv stared at him blankly, “Oh, love, you must have put the directions in wrong.”
“I canceled us there. Ladies, remember when you were going to take me on a holiday for a weekend? The one we missed thanks to my unscheduled trip to the hospital?” He grinned, enjoying their confusion. Lea was still looking out the window as the view turned from ‘impressive’ to ‘luxurious’ and was quickly heading for ‘‘opulent’. “When I was in recovery, I asked Prince Adam for three favors. Pushing through Desi’s adoption was one… looking into Olea was another… and a weekend somewhere nice to make it up to you both was number three.”
Tom drew Miv back into the seat beside him and slipped his arm back around Lea as she pressed to the window, the drive opening out on the broad vista and the hotel beyond. “Ladies, welcome to the Imperial Ocean Reserve.”
_ _ _
Following at a covert distance, and it had still been an easy drive. With an hour or two left to go, Sgt. Jel’ke had done the driving, leaving Captain Ce’lani to do the sensible thing and get some sleep. Honestly, it was kind of a relief. The Captain had been keyed up over Warrick, and after finally getting out of the bunker it was nice not to make small talk.
Thank the goddess the woman was sensible, but even so, she still had it bad…
…At least I haven’t had to make small talk along the… waitaminute…
Jel’ke frowned as the autocab turned in off the highway and pulled slowly on to the median. There was no doubt about it, the cab had diverted off the drive and was heading out of sight into…
…Well, fuck me…
Being a Deathshead Commando meant being down in the blood and the mud, deployed to some of the worst situations known to woman… but, every so often, it also put you in the way of protecting the great and the powerful.
Jel’ke knew Big Money when she saw it.
“Captain? You need to wake up.” Jel’ke pulled to a stop on the shoulder of the road, “I think we have a problem.”
_ _ _
It was early afternoon when Aku closed the file on his omni-pad.
The end of his tour had passed. He’d survived… at least on the outside. It wouldn't do to look anything less than your best, after all.
On the inside was another matter. His mistress, the Cliffsinger Tranja, had torn apart his every performance from the time he stepped on stage until the final note. Nothing was right. Nothing was good enough. While she hadn’t said he was an embarrassment as an initiate, she hadn’t needed to. The words had hung in the air - tangible, if unspoken.
This was his life.
Sitting in the dark of the enclave’s library, he thought about the tour. It had been an abject misery. If not for Kas’lin and Ka’mara, he’d probably have lost his mind under the pressure.
…If only things were different. I could be a regular guy. Maybe I could have met them instead, or someone like them! Started a family and lived a normal life…
His eyes crept back to his omni-pad. As miserable as he was at that moment, he knew he was telling himself a lie. Even if it had all been different, there was still the music. It burned inside, begging to be let out, and he yearned to make it happen. Even though his mistress seemed determined to sink his hopes into the Deeps, there was still the music. It could not be denied.
He’d kept away from the other initiates after returning to the enclave. They were his competition. He couldn’t see them as anything else, now… but inside it felt like a losing battle. Only one of them would inherit their mistress’ position and title, and it didn't seem likely that it would be him.
In desperation, he’d turned to the archives.
Cliffsinging was old. It was respected. Revered. Generations upon generations of Singers had practiced their art, handing down their names. Over time, the art had become codified… the Singers had become living treasures… but the original works survived. Every generation had added something of their own.
He’d delved deep into the stacks, diving through the recordings, searching the early works. There were files and archives and even printed records… He’d torn through all of them, not knowing what he was looking for until he’d found it.
The song was old - ancient, even - and written by one of the Singers whose name had not become selected as the final Twelve of Shil. The music was haunting, and it burned with a vibrancy that he didn't see in the more modern works - the kind of thing so often in demand now. There was almost no music - the singer's voice rang out alone, echoing off the cliffs accompanied only by a single steel arecha… but the song spoke to him.
The language was stilted with age, but as he’d translated it into more modern terms, it felt comfortable… it had the yearning that he felt inside, and which almost seemed Human in its power as he transcribed and updated it for his presentation.
It was traditional. It was very traditional. If he was going to reclaim his Mistress’ approval, this was what he needed.
He’d give his performance tonight, in front of his Mistress and the others. Show them he was good enough. Show her that he was better than the rest.
The music called and he had to answer.
Aku sighed again, wondering what the twins were doing at school right now. It had to be better than here.
_ _ _
“You are being such a bitch!” Kas’lin said hotly, scowling over the table at Dihsala. Ka’mara scowled over at the girl before joining in. “She’s right. There’s no call for this kind of behavior!”
“You two brought it on yourselves!” Dihsala crossed her arms defiantly, while Desi slumped the chair, resting her head on one fist, and steadfastly refused to join in.
“What are you talking about!? You’re twisting our arms… and… AND! you’re sucking up to Jax’mi!” Kas’lin was on her feet now, pointing at Dihsala, and Kas’lin rose in defense. There wasn't much more she could add to that.
“I don’t suck up to anyone!” Dihsala snapped coldly, though Jaxmi sat back, preening. It was the first happy look on the Chel’xa girl's face, as she’d been left desperately trying to keep the Japanese out of some city called Mecca. “You two brought it on yourselves, sucking up to England with that marriage proposal. You didn't want to join in, so this is what you get for coming late!”
“There’s nothing to get.” Kas’lin swept a hand up at the map on the screen. “They’ve completely swept everything out of Africa!”
“Well, that’s what you get for joining late. Anything you want to take, you can take out of France,” Dihsala said with finality. “Isn't that right, Lark?”
Khe’lark was looking at her omni-pad unhappily, saying nothing. Dihsala turned to look at her this time. “Lark?”
“It’s fine… Really…” Lark said unhappily.
“What?” Dihsala started to frown, and Desi sat up taking notice. “What’s ‘fine’?”
“Well, I didn't want to tell you this… but I think the Czechs are going to declare independence and revolt…”
Kas’lin closed her eyes and settled back in her chair.
The casualties for everyone along the French front lines had been catastrophic, the Spanish were useless, and now things were going to the Deeps with Austria…
…The things I do for extra credit…
_ _ _
“Well, I think the points we spent working on the Czechs and the Slovenes are paying off handsomely,” Let’zi said confidently, though the look around the table wasn’t encouraging.
“At least something is.” Pris grimaced, gesturing up at the map. “I hate to say it, but I don’t think France can last much longer.”
“She’s right. Rotating units up from the South kept the Germans out of Paris,” Sephir sighed gloomily. “But morale was shot with the units we rotated back South. We hoped they’d recover, but with Spain and Italy attacking? Unless we catch a break, I think our whole army will mutiny soon.”
“They can’t keep it up. They’ve lost all their colonies, now they have to fight in every direction at once.” Let’zi shook her head and tried sounding confident, though it was dimmed. “They can't do it. No one could!”
“She’s right, and England is mobilized now.” Melondi studied the map carefully, “Japan is all over the Ottomans in the South. Russia is… well… holding their own…”
“I’m doing the best I can…” Nestha huffed, crossing her arms. “Though yeah, the Ottomans are turning around and sending troops back South.”
“That’s right,” Melondi said brightly. “Besides, now we have Belda on our side!”
The girls looked over at Belda… who was staring off into space in a world of her own.
“Look, let’s call it a day. Bel has to go get dressed.” Mel grinned as Belda looked up, utterly lost. “She’s got a big evening.”
_ _ _
“Lieutenant, you aren't going to believe this…”
Lt. Peheli Tala looked over from the control board warily to where Sgt Diani was sitting in the right seat at observation. The bunker pods were all jumbled up with Captain Ton’is and Sgt. Jel’ke out on their trip, leaving Tala to fill in. It was a nice change of pace from running checks in the service corridors and updating the gear in the bunker.
Diani had been running the boards while telling long war stories to Sgt Vaeko, who was busily running the odds on that morning’s ‘wargame’ while monitoring the girls’ strategy sessions.
Words like that out of nowhere were not what she’d wanted to hear.
Diani and Vaeko had been keeping up a constant stream of conversation, both talking and only mostly listening to the other. It was enough to make her miss the quiet of the tunnels, and she’d started to tune out the idle chatter. Diani’s words snapped her back to reality in an instant, her heart pounding.
“Report Sgt!” Tala snapped the words out, but she was already pulling up the campus map on the main board, checking frantically for any sitreps from the ground team. No alarms had gone off yet, but it was probably only seconds away.
…Where's the alarm? Why hasn't anyone punched the alarm!? I’ll have to call Agent Duvari, and…
“It’s Captain Ton’is and Jel’ke.” Diani had a cheesy grin plastered over her wide features. “They need us to make some calls and get em a hotel room… You aren’t gonna believe where.”
Tala could feel her heart thudding in her chest. No alarms had gone off. There was no intrusion along the perimeter…
“A… a what?”
_ _ _
The Imperial Ocean Reserve was everything that Tom could have hoped for. It was old by Shil’vati standards, but that didn't mean tired. It meant historic, and walking into the lobby conjured up images only found in history books. The Reserve was a place where parasols graced the lawns in Summer and moonlight walks on the open beach were the norm. On Earth, it was the sort of place you could envision steamer trunks and top hats.
There were three restaurants along the veranda, and a bar, shops, and sumptuous indoor pool that served guests all year long. The hotel was vast. Not in the sense of catering to all comers, but spacious. It occupied its grounds like a crowning jewel.
As for their room?
It had a luxurious bed he could get lost in, more than capable of sleeping six Shil’vati. While he usually wasn’t big on the details, even he noticed the richly embroidered linens, what seemed like down pillows, the plush towels in the marble bathroom, well-stocked bar, and an in-room omni-pad to call for room service and requests.
That the whole suite lay beneath the ocean, with a glass roof and walls looking out from their bedroom at the surrounding coral reef, didn’t hurt either.
It was quite a place, but as the girls got started with the unpacking, he slipped out. It had always been his habit to poke around, and finding the best place for dinner reservations seemed like a good idea. A few minutes scouting out the restaurants would save time later…
At least, that had been the idea. The verandah surrounding the hotel proper had a lovely view directly off the beach, and as anyone would expect, it drew admiring guests… One of which happened to be Lady Vonde, the Duchess of House Jo’lare.
Tom hadn't seen the woman since Pre-term, when she’d attached herself to him in the tour, insistently tried to get him to ‘come for a visit,' and pinched his ass while showing her daughter around the campus. She’d been noteworthy in managing to do it more discreetly than most, but still…
Just at the moment Lady Vonde was in a shouting match against someone named Duchess Pyanfar, who’d swarmed down on him only a minute before Vonde. Pyanfar had started in on him with her retinue, breathlessly cooing about how charmed she was to meet him and wanting to hear all the details about Human marriages, and of course, she’d seen the captivating video on the news. It was just sooo rustic, positively enthralling, going native like that!
But Vonde spotted him and wasn’t having any of it, loudly insisting that he’d agreed to visit, and did Pyanfar know who she was!? Then her retinue started pushing Vonde’s retinue, while a crowd started to gather around the scene…
Tom was the only non-Shil in the room, and being 6’2 and pink, it wasn't easy to make himself invisible. He still did his best, though it was more a testament to the crowd of angry retainers around Vonde and Pyanfar that he got as far as the door of the bar. He kept his eyes behind him on the crowd as he made a break for it, barging first into a glass followed by a massive pair of breasts…
“Oh! Geeze…” Tom stepped back, “I’m terribly sorry Miss…”
A meaty hand clamped down on his arm painfully, and Tom looked up into the ruddy face of Tirola Reshay, Nestha’s kho-mother.
Disheveled and stinking of alcohol,Tirola wasn't in good shape. She’d emerged from the bar with her own crowd of hangers-on, including a Shil’vati guy hanging on her arm, and while she’d somehow managed to hang on to her glass, the collision had drenched her top in Blue Grail. Her eyes widened as she looked down at him and she growled, “You!!!”
…Alright, she isn’t in a good mood, though the last time I saw her she’d been unconscious in a pool of her own vomit…
Tirola made the mistake of clamping down harder, and Tom cried out in pained surprise. “Hey, get your damn hand off me!”
“Oh, you’re coming with me." Tirola tugged him closer…
Tom’s fingers spread and he jabbed. The strike was clumsy and he was off balance, but as eye-pokes went, it did the job.
Tirola let go of him and bellowed, her hand flying to one eye. The skinny guy thrown off her arm shrieked in bantam fury as he was thrown to the ground.
Then things got a little crazy.
_ _ _
Sgt. Jel’ke knew Big Money. She also knew when Big Money was fobbing her off. Thus far, they’d made it to the lobby and the reservation staff.
The ‘request’ had come down through official channels, but the Manager wasn't happy about it. Despite some ever-so-polite words, it seemed another call eventually came through and did the trick. The Manager accepted their story, and started offering over a room key with only a trace of disdain…
Out in the lobby, there was a scream.
It was followed a minute later by the sight of Tom Warrick pelting up the hall at a dead run and ducking into one of the gift shops, pursued by several mobs of women caught up in fighting each other as much as chasing after him.
“Captain, I-”
It was no use. Ce’lani Ton’is had already charged, and was racing across the lobby in hot pursuit. Glancing down at their meager baggage, she had the presence of mind to snatch the key from the Manager’s hand before she could take it back.
Somewhere up the hall Ce’lani bellowed.
Moments later a thunderous crash rumbled from somewhere up the hall. It was followed by the sound of delicate things breaking, considerably more shouting, and a soft cloud of plaster dust that gently wafted around the corner.
Jel’ke turned to the wide-eyed receptionist behind the counter and gave him a rakish smile. “So, what time is dinner?”
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2023.03.24 12:47 ACitrusYaFeel Ryman III - Sweet Nothings

6th Moon, 200 AC - King's Landing
Hot, with as much sweat atop the brow and in matted locks of hair as much as the small of the back. The Capital seemed stricken with heat for all of a day and with the sun hung high overhead, there was nowhere safe from it. Only the salt-filled breeze swept fresh from the sea could provide some inkling of comfort, no matter the masses that also seemed to think the same. In thin cloth from the scorched mountains of the Marches, Ryman and Criston feasted upon fruit while Brynden appeared more inclined to bathe his worn and weary face in a pail of water much cleaner than what lied in the Blackwater.
"Should we not be working," asked Criston with a mouthful and wandering eyes on a swivel, "the heat will make them an unruly lot?"
From behind closed eyes while reclined across the stone with a forearm lazily sitting across his forehead, Ryman groaned. "I gave Joff command for the day." He said with a dismissive wave of his idle hand, "I have much more important things to tend to."
Brynden rose his dripping head, "You're bathing your sun, have been most of the day."
"Exactly," laughed Ryman, biting out another portion of green apple. A favourite, as bitter as it was sweet. "Much more important things."
Criston groaned and Brynden rumbled in a low chuckle, while Roland snickered softly. Though silence reigned in the moments that followed. The lot of them sat and sweat, their skin stained with salt as it crept across the otherwise dry air save the spray. There was no quiet, not here, not with the bells and the sounds of the city and docks alike. The comfort of silence was ever a rarity in King's Landing, even in the dead of night.
Though without warning, Ryman sat up. "You know, I was thinking-"
"Not good," grumbled Criston.
An eaten apple core was tossed his way, striking him whilst he wasn't looking. "Oi!" He balked.
Brynden laughed, Roland snickered, and Ryman chuckled.
"I think I should be wed," he continued.
"Is this your father talking?" Said one while another roused, "Your beloved Baratheon already left the city."
His eyes rolled, partly with frustration to match the comment and the truth of it. Ryman believed himself on the path for such a union, even despite the... mishap with the mother, with a violent raid. It seemed to resolve itself, he thought, with the accused little more than a corpse in the Stepstones now. He was here, still, in his position and without consequence; save the bitter remarks of an ever upset prince, a future ruler, but one that Ryman would lose no sleep over should a sickness claim him. His sister seemed more to his nature, too.
"Maester...?" He flicked his gaze across to an elderly man in a thicker garb with heavy chains hanging from his neck. Beads of sweat seemed to settle over his brow, down his cheeks, and into the thin and pale beard. His eyes softened when there was no immediate answer, perhaps the older man nestled by a barrel and table had died.
"The maester will agree with your every wish." Criston tossed the skin of his fruit in saying, a soft plop came as it struck the water and was lost in the small waves.
"Perhaps you should be more like him, then." Ryman smarmily retorted.
Gruff, the effort to clear the maester's throat appeared to steal some degree of strength from him. "I should believe in whatever you think is right," the old man's voice sounded as uninterested as it was non-committal.
Criston shrugged with a huff, "See?" Brynden snorted.
"Then we best write a letter," the Caron smirked to his fellows while the maester prepared both parchment and ink in the outdoors. His movements slow and sluggish, a shaky hand found trouble.
His once lazily lounging self sobered, straightening with narrowed features born from focus. Ryman cleared his own throat, speaking, "Write: to my beloved Ellyn, I have thought of you day and night. No, wait, get rid of that."
To my beloved Ellyn,
I have thought of you day and night
"Maybe..." He ran his hand across his chin. "Ellyn, I cannot stop thinking of you - eh, no." He sighed, laying down and clasping his fingers together. Once more, his eyes fell shut. Even from behind closed eyelids, the heat of the sun could be felt through them.
I cannot stop thinking of you
The maester groaned, discarding another piece of parchment in favour of another.
"Tortured lover," mockingly frowned Criston.
Brynden and Roland supped on their summer wine, "Given up so soon?"
Ryman only huffed in response.
"Perhaps something more heartfelt and thoughtful, lord Ryman." Said maester Hunnimore through his hoarse chords.
He sat up, his arms leaning over his risen and bent knees. "Hmm," he hummed in thought. "Dearest Ellyn," said Ryman after a moments worth of consideration, "I have not forgotten the night we shared together; I have thought of you ever since."
Dearest Ellyn,
I have not forgotten the night we shared together. I have thought of you ever since.
"Wait," alarmingly sounded Criston, stiffening. "The night you shared? Did you bed her?"
Stolen from his careful thoughts, Ryman's brow tensed a touch before it softened in his turn towards their knightly friend. "No," he shook his head softly, "though we spent a night together. Her mother will think I did bed her should she read this, which will go one of two ways."
With suspicion, Criston narrowed his brow. "Do you think that to be your benefit."
Ryman shrugged his pursed lips. "Tricky," said Roland.
He continued, "Though I know we have spent moons apart from another, I would hope for many more nights together to come in the moons, and if you would want it, the years. I come to realise the love I hold for you, the same love I did not yet understand when I named you Queen of Love and Beauty years ago."
Dearest Ellyn,
I have not forgotten the night we shared together. I have thought of you ever since.
Though I know we have spent moons apart from another, I would hope for many more nights together to come in the moons, and if you would want it, the years. I come to realise the love I hold for you, the same love I did not yet understand when I named you Queen of Love and Beauty years ago.
His own silence returned, oblivious to the prying eyes of his fellows. Each turned, each listened, each awaited the next breath to spill heartfelt worlds. Or those that appeared to be as much. In his consideration of the next placed lyrics to a song he did not quite know, there was some half-wonder as to whether there was truth to them. Ellyn was bold, even abusive - he liked that about her, it made her different, separate from the rest. Perhaps should we make him a better man, maybe worse.
"Come on, lover boy."
"You're not done yet."
Ryman glared, "Shut it."
On the brick and mortar ahead, his eyes focused. "If it would please you, as it please me, I would offer myself and all my worldly possessions unto you in a union of marriage. Perhaps we may meet to discuss this further, the Capital should suffice. Lest you would prefer elsewhere. Your most ardent admirer - no," he groaned, "too much."
Dearest Ellyn,
I have not forgotten the night we shared together. I have thought of you ever since.
Though I know we have spent moons apart from another, I would hope for many more nights together to come in the moons, and if you would want it, the years. I come to realise the love I hold for you, the same love I did not yet understand when I named you Queen of Love and Beauty years ago.
If it would please you, as it please me, I would offer myself and all my worldly possessions unto you in a union of marriage. Perhaps we may meet to discuss this further, the Capital should suffice. Lest you would prefer elsewhere.
Your most ardent admirer
Hunnimore groaned even louder, though. In protest as his ink had little use in the end.
Ryman shared a quiet, smug smile. He turned to the maester, "Say, 'Yours', then sign."
Dearest Ellyn,
I have not forgotten the night we shared together. I have thought of you ever since.
Though I know we have spent moons apart from another, I would hope for many more nights together to come in the moons, and if you would want it, the years. I come to realise the love I hold for you, the same love I did not yet understand when I named you Queen of Love and Beauty years ago.
If it would please you, as it please me, I would offer myself and all my worldly possessions unto you in a union of marriage. Perhaps we may meet to discuss this further, the Capital should suffice. Lest you would prefer elsewhere.
Ryman Caron
"I'm practically teary," dryly said Criston some more, wiping a false tear from his forcefully bored eye. "Do you think it will be of much use, or is this truly loving message all for naught."
Ryman snatched up the bottle of wine, a Pentoshi summer. He eyes the contents curiously, swishing them about, grasping onto his own silence tightly. In the end, the words followed a hearty swig and a shrug of his shoulders, laying flat onto his back with another shrug but of his mouth. "Eh," he breathily mumbled.
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2023.03.24 12:47 tygabeast [Dreadgod] Team Regression 12

Part 12: Serpent's Grave
Kelsa had spent her childhood hearing stories and tales of mighty and majestic dragons. But that was all that they had been; tales, myths to act as the focus of a parable to instill a moral lesson in children. The powerful beasts hoard resources and force their offspring to fend for themselves, so humans who provide resources to the promising young are more honorable, or so she was taught.
They were clearly more than just myth.
Gazing out the window, Kelsa watched the city as they approached. Skeletons so massive that they boggled the mind wove around and through a bustling metropolis of human make, any one of them large enough to encompass the entire Wei clan compound. The name of the city, Serpent's Grave, seemed appropriate.
Slowly, the she began to make out details of the bones, dark spots becoming clearer until their purpose as windows was clear. The bones themselves had been carved into buildings, and people streamed into, through, and around them. If every one of the bones were a building in its own right...
Just how many people live here?
A soft jerk pulled her from her thoughts. It seemed that, while she was distracted, the ship had been lowered into a prepared spot. She left her place, joining Lindon and the others at the doors of the building. Eithan threw open the doors to reveal a hundred people, arranged in rows of ten, clad in blue and black, prostrated on the ground.
"The Arelius family greets the Patriarch," they shouted, their unified voice shaking the ground and vibrating Kelsa's bones.
Cassias stepped in front of Eithan and addressed the group. "Number one, step forward and report."
The leftmost person in the front row, a balding man of average build in his middle years, stepped up and bowed to the Patriarch.
He moved to whisper in Cassias' ear, instead of making his report in front of the crowd. After a moment, Cassias turned to Eithan and spoke in a normal tone. Kelsa found herself wondering what the point of that was.
"Since I have been gone, the Jai have grown even more desperate. Our fourth-ranked crew of lamplighters working on the mountain have returned with severe burns. They were working on the peak, just outside the Jai palaces, and have named a specific group of Jai Highgolds. The Jai have not responded, but the Highgolds haven't been seen for the last week."
Eithan dipped his head, and the servant continued whispering in Cassias' ear. He nodded through a few more reports before Cassias said, "We've recently received reports indicating that a natural spirit has formed in the sewer. A life spirit, caused by Jai refiners dumping their elixirs in the same chamber that the Soulsmiths disposed of their dead matter, as predicted."
Eithan nodded again. "Two and a half miles east," he said, "just south of the Sandstorm Quarter, directly beneath the fountain shaped like a three-headed dragon."
Cassias turned back to the rows of kneeling servants. "Ninety-nine and one hundred," he said. The two people in the back rose to their feet, and ran off.
"This is where you'll be advancing to Lowgold," Eithan said as he guided Kelsa into a large chamber. "This chamber has been specially prepared for the task." As he spoke, he gesture toward the center of the room, to the concentric cicles of script covering the floor.
"The Jade cycling technique that I introduced you to will have created a sort of... spiral within your spirit. The purpose of that spiral is to trap a Remnant, which will, in turn, bind it to you. This is the most commonly practiced method of reaching the Gold realm from Jade." As he finished, he pulled a scripted box almost the size of his own head from his sleeve, holding it up. "Your brother was kind enough to provide a Remnant that would be compatible with your own Path. I have spent the last month ensuring its strength, purity, and stability."
Done speaking, Eithan walked to the center of the room, sat the box on the floor, and activated release script before retreating. The box fell open, releasing the Remnant trapped inside, a fox in the shape of a man that only reached as high as Kelsa's shoulders, painted on the world in white and luminous purple. The Remnant sat on its haunches, fully ignoring Eithan and watching her silently, its eyeless gaze following her whenever she moved.
"Now, the process is simple. Once you make physical contact, simply will it into your system," Eithan explained. "It will fight, of course, but it will be a battle of wills. A battle in which you have the distinct advantage of conscious thought. Remnants generally don't have enough of a consiousness to engage in such a battle effectively, at least until the Lord realm. Now, proceed, and I will guide you as best I can."
At his signal, Kelsa slowly approached the trapped Remnant. When she reached the final layer of protective script, the Remnant finally reacted. It lunged at her, drawing itself short at the scripted boundary, leaving itself standing there, flexing claws and snarling. A straight confrontation could only end poorly, if its speed were any indication.
A idea strikes her, and it seems oddly appropriate. Controlling the aura, she wove the Fox Dream, trapping the Remnant's simple mind in an illusion. Following the advice her brother had given her, she abandoned the details and instead wove the intent, leaving the details to the Remnant.
Following the illusion, the Remnant spun in place, snarling at the empty wall opposite her. Seizing the moment, Kelsa leapt forward, wrapping her arms around the Remnant. Eithan's voice came from the side. "Now pull! Force it to sumbit to your will and become part of you!"
As instructed, she cycled her madra and pulled, drawing the Remnant into her channels as if it were arua to be cycled. In her channels, the spirit wriggled and shifted as if alive, fighting her as she attempted to subdue it. She pitted her will against it, forcing it further into her system, until it reached her core. Once inside, its resistance became less and less, until finally, it stopped, becoming one with her madra system.
Once it settled, power began flowing from the spirit. It filled her channels and swelled her core, granting her power beyond anything she had imagined. Her madra became denser, more potent, as the power within surged outward. With a final movement of spirit, her goldsign forced itself outward, a translucent purple imitation of a fox's tail. At the end, she felt her own spirit, her power.
She had become a Gold.
Lindon and Yerin followed the servant to Underground Chamber Number Three, the volcanic cave where Orthos was contained. Little Blue chimed sadly from Lindon's shoulder. In the month of travel, Eithan had given her a steady diet of Underlord level scales and soulfire, resulting in her current state at the spiritual equivalent of Truegold.
"I know, Blue, but as he is, he's a threat to anyone around him." Lindon replied. He waved his arm at the shadowed entrance. "This is where he can be comfortably contained with minimal danger. But that very fact is worrying. Would he still be like this if he remembered?"
Yerin squared her shoulders, her goldsigns flexing. "Only one way to find out," she said, walking into the cave, Lindon following.
The journey into the deepest reaches of the cave took several minutes, which the three spent in quiet conversation. Just when Lindon was about to respond to a question that Yerin had asked, they heard something. Echoing off the walls came a deep, mournful bellow, coming from deeper inside. Coming from Orthos.
A blue-white haze surrounded Lindon as he used the Soul Cloak. As fast as he could, he ran down the tunnel, belatedly realizing that it was the same area that he and Eithan had found Orthos in the original timeline. As they drew closer, the cries became more defined.
Orthos was calling Lindon's name.
Rounding a final corner, Lindon found Orthos beating his shell softly against the wall. As he came into view, burning rings focused on him, Orthos' face twisting in rage.
"Begone, ghost!" Orthos roared. "Bother me no more, and leave me be!" An instant later, he was gathering blackflame.
Soul Cloak enhancing his relfexes, Lindon ducked under an arm-thick bar of blackflame as he drew closer to the confused turtle. Little Blue screamed into his ear, sounding like a set of windchimes falling down a set of stairs, and his bond translated the feelings into her desire for him to throw her.
Lindon approached Orthos at speed, taking Little Blue in his hands. When he had come feet away, Lindon tossed Little Blue high into the air and distracted Orthos with an Empty Palm to the chin. The blow disoriented Orthos for only a second, but that was all they needed.
Little Blue landed directly on top of Orthos' head, immediately smacking her palms down and releasing her cleansing madra into his system. Instantly, Orthos' eyes began to clear, his mind becoming more stable. Rearing back, she slapped his head again, releasing another cleansing pulse. As his mind cleared, Orthos calmed, his madra stilling. He looked at Lindon in confusion.
"Lindon," He asked, "are you real?"
Lindon set a palm on the turtle's forehead and said, "I am, Orthos."
"I have been tormented," the turtle said, his voice choked with emotion, "by knowing that you would come. I saw you arrive, over and over, never knowing if it was real. I am still afraid of hoping, should this be another figment of my mind."
"Apologies, Orthos," Lindon said. "I took too long. But it's over now." Lindon cycled his unbonded core and placed both his hand on Orthos. "I swear to open my core to you, and share my power."
Orthos rumbled, the sound of boulders grinding. "I accept your bond."
Lindon's system opened to Orthos, and his world became fire and destruction.
I meant to have this out yesterday, but I got distracted. On a totally unrelated note, it's Warframe's tenth anniversary.
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2023.03.24 12:47 TickIe_Me_Homo Current state of medicine

GPST2 Here. I am planning on leaving medicine after I complete my GP training, which I'm due to finish in 2025. I've been working in UK since 2018, initially as a trust grade for 1 year and then locum for 3 years (working 7 months with 5 months break) which was an excellent experience, however when I joined GP training in 2021, I started getting bored working in medicine due to the boring repetitive nature of the job and not being allowed to actually think for ourselves; it was either seek senior advice for a plan or follow well hidden guidelines available on the intranet (or get told off by a senior when following a guideline that is different from what they would do or get told off by another senior for bothering them when there is a guideline available).
I thoroughly love medicine and the doctopatient relationships, however I feel that these two components are slowly being weaned out of our day to day practice and we are just tickbox machines who are meant to hit our quotas and if we don't, we need to sort ourselves out.
I'm currently in a palliative medicine post which has rekindled my enjoyment in medicine given how much time you have to spend with each patient/family members as well as having that extra time to do the necessary investigative work to ensure proper holistic care for each patient, something that we don't really have the luxury to do in GP land or in hospital which is such a shame.
I was wondering what everyone else's sentiments were on the current state of medicine and whether yall are also still enjoying practicing it?
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